School project grows gratitude for Ecker Hill students
‘It takes one minute of time and it really has made huge changes’
April 11, 2017
Students at Ecker Hill Middle School are learning they have a whole lot to be grateful for.
Since January, Lindsey Jacobson, a world languages teacher at the school, has required students to complete an unusual assignment each day: list three things they're grateful for and describe a positive thing that happened over the previous 24 hours in a "gratitude journal," and perform one random act of kindness.
It's a simple concept, but one Jacobson said has spurred tremendous growth in the students. As the project has continued during the last three months, they've discovered a greater appreciation for what they have in their lives and have become happier as a result.
Jacobson, who came up with the assignment after a parent sent her a video about gratitude journaling, said the transformation has been so stark that she intends to continue the project through the rest of the school year and will assign it to her next group of students this fall, as well.
"Almost 100 percent of the kids have said it's helping them," she said. "I don't have to tell them to do it anymore. They come in, grab their journal, and it's done. I wanted to make them aware of how to be happy and how to create your own happiness."
Initially, many of the students said they were grateful for the obvious things that popped into their minds — their parents, their houses or their new video game console. But Jacobson has encouraged the students to dig deeper to find an appreciation for the parts of their lives they had taken for granted. They said doing that has made a big difference in how they view the world.
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One student, Sarah Fischer, said it's made her consider the little things, like how lucky she is to live in Park City, with a tight-knit community and above-average school district.
"It's made me just think about how fortunate we are how we live in such a safe place and how other people don't have the opportunities that we have in life," she said. "We should be grateful for the things we have and not want things that we don't need to have."
Another student, Marcus Rung, said the gratitude journaling has put his life into perspective.
"I have a lot of things that I don't like and I want the better version, but now that I did the gratitude journal, I realize I should just be grateful for what I have," he said. "There are kids out there who don't have anything and who barely get food."
The project has also been illuminating for Jacobson, who has become even more grateful for the students who walk into her classroom each day. She hopes they continue the journals on their own after the school year ends and never forget the lessons the assignment has taught them.
"I love it so much," she said. "This is the best job I've ever had. But adding things like this to my day, and seeing 150 kids take something I've shown them and run with it has been amazing. It's making them happier. They're so excited to write in their journals every single day. It takes one minute of time and it really has made huge changes."
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